Apple Inc.’s relationship with Foxconn, assembler of iPhones and iPads in China on behalf of the tech giant, has attracted its fair share of attention in recent months.
Observers and labor activists across The Pond have cast a dim view on what it see as an abusive and exploitative production arrangement. Anecdotes of child labor, unsafe working conditions, and slave wages abound.
One of the great risks of an affluent company setting up shop in poorer countries is the danger of accusations of unethical business practices. Union operatives, unhappy about losing jobs back home to less costly labor overseas are ready to pounce on any whiff of controversy. And bad press clippings can inflict great harm upon a company’s brand. Big brands ignore these undercurrents at their peril.
What have multinational giants such as Nike, Apple, Coca Cola, and The Gap to address real and potential problems, and mitigate risk? One positive response is their pursuit of what has become known as the ethical supply chain. Are efforts along this path going well? Are factory audits the answer?
Today’s article in The Economist reviews the history of work practices in Asia, and reviews recent successes and failures:
“DEATH to Apple executives,” a protester shouted after a recent performance of “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”, a popular off-Broadway play. Apple executives must have been delighted when Mike Daisey, the playwright and star, recently retracted his nastiest allegations about the mistreatment of workers making Apple’s products in China. Apparently, he did not meet a worker poisoned by exposure to chemicals, or child workers at the factory gate. With its share price soaring as the latest iPad storms the market, Apple might be tempted to forget about the fuss over its labour practices. But that would be a mistake.
Any big company that makes things in poor countries faces scrutiny of its supply chain. Campaigners against harsh working conditions (and unions back home that hate competition from low-wage countries) will pounce on any hint of scandal. Horrified headlines can tarnish a brand. Companies need to pay heed. (Read more…)
Foxconn auditor reveals new violations at Apple factory – Tech Tonic
The latest Apple factory inspection shows illegal working hours and labor law violations are still widespread. Reuters Social Media Editor Anthony De Rosa gets a first-hand account from auditor Auret van Heerden, the head of the Fair Labor Associatio…
What are the pros and cons of pursuing an ethical supply chain? Your comments are appreciated!
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